Two human rights organizations are sounding the alarm about a bill before the Iranian parliament that would impose official supervision on non-governmental organizations.
Amnesty International and Dutch human rights organization, Arseh Sevom issued a joint statement urging Iranian lawmakers to reject the bill that would govern “the establishment and supervision of non-governmental organizations.” They maintain that the bill aims to control and eradicate independent organizations in Iran.
According to the statement, if this bill passes, all NGOs would be subject to the approval of a supervisory board comprised of intelligence and Basij forces. All major decisions regarding the activities of NGOs would be left up to this supervisory board. The statement says the bill would be another infringement on the right to assemble and form organizations.
Groups rallying to challenge the bill and urge its defeat include organizations active in environmental issues, women’s rights and support for people with disabilities, as well as professional guilds.
According to the proposed bill, the supervisory board would supervise the NGOs’ activities and control the distribution of funds among them.
NGOs in Iran began widespread activities during the reform government in the 1990s.
Up until now, the government has not intervened in the establishment and activities of NGOs, and the supervisory boards were mostly comprised of NGO representatives.
Since Mahmoud Ahmadinejad came to power in 2005, the NGOs have come under intense government pressure, yet many still continue their activities.
Following the 2009 post-election protests, NGOs active in women’s rights, student rights, human rights issues and the media have been forced to limit their activities. Many activists involved with these groups have been arrested and given long term prison sentences.